The good job nonsense is something that has bugged me for years. As softball team manager for teams of my then elementary school daughters, I was always befuddled when a parent would say “good job” to their kid who just struck out or popped out to the pitcher. After whacking a double or hitting a homer, the kid got the same congratulatory “good job.” What’s the point of success?
Watch Edward Luce: It's 'Time to Start Thinking' America on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.
It doesn’t end in grade school. A couple of weeks ago, my now 17-year-old's basketball team destroyed the opposition. If a person walked into the gym just after the end of the game, he would have thought the other team dominated the court by the number of “good jobs” that were showered upon the team that lost the game by 35 points.
Luce quotes Jean Twenge, an educational psychologist, who says the proportion of teenagers who check the box “I think I am a special person” versus those who check “I am no better and no worse than anybody else” has gone off the charts since the 1980s. Twenge found that the “incidence of narcissistic personality disorder—delusional levels of self-esteem-among American students has more than doubled. It’s Lake Wobegon run amok.
Luce, a Brit, raps the fact that every kid in America gets to win a prize or trophy. [Last week, I threw out a swimming trophy that my kid "earned" for finishing in seventh place.] America’s youth are so coddled or sheltered to the point that college deans refer to incoming freshman as “teacups,” noted Luce, chief U.S. columnist for the Financial Times and speechwriter for former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers.
Replacing “good job” with “try harder” or “better luck next time” would be a good way to begin the process of putting America back on track.